(SI o N] ^ ^s. 7i ^ > £ ^0 m o >> e-e $ U) '.; O * o o >| Abraham Lincoln's Contemporaries Charles Sumner Excerpts from newspapers and other sources From the files of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection 7l.2j>o<?rOts>0'$$r e rt //L^W'ty fox ^^t^c^K 7 Trz*. 7 x z /t^-z. J^^/— y^^-7 r c£>faZf'^uy; i_ ^ /o^i /' ^z^ ■ *f, <S sy— ^7 - " f a/ — vm* r n — - <- . - - , ,„■,.. — , ( 1 =_ « i . / ^ ^^- ^^- ^^ ' £^ ~7 PX/2^"^- C ^O ^fr X* 7 /i^.- /fe. / A^i^i/2^ ■m r f" -> ,K.^5R?!t, 'EF&P* J \ — ^f ^ 1 1 ^ ^ 7 a^. /^ <t*- «^t___ o^ ^~ r /'-~l z 1 ^ s^-~. »Lr-\, /j. ,C / 7'^ ' /- &; -K, A~&~^. ^ _y ^^~- ^^7 /fc^t /vC^ April, 1977 Bulletin of The Lincoln National Life Foundation. ..Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. Published each month by The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. Number 1670 WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE BEARS LINCOLN NO MALICE There they were, right on schedule. In beautiful dark-red jackets portraying Lloyd Ostendorfs recently discovered photographic plate of Abraham Lincoln, they were neatly stacked in all good trade book stores and even in some of those not-so-good chains which handle only books which promise, by scholars' standards at least, a very large sale. A year ago, Harper and Row had promised them for Lincoln's birthday, 1977. With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen Oates had arrived. Never was a book better served by its publisher. A year ago, the wire services carried a photograph of Professor Oates ac- companied by stories that humble Abe was not so humble after all — that he did not even like to be called "Abe," in fact. He had not liked to talk about his youth and family origins. In his ambitious rise to frontier affluence and professional status, Oates told us, Lincoln did his utmost to forget his roots. The article usually said that Oates had been working on a life of Lincoln for seven years and that it would appear on Lincoln's birthday next year. It so appeared, and so did author Oates on NBC's morning news show for a typically shallow television interview which probed — among other searching questions — why anyone should want to write a bio- graphy of Abraham Lincoln after Carl Sandburg's work. Television interviews sell books. Stephen Oates is a biographer, not a Lincoln man. This much ballyhooed book is clearly meant, nevertheless, to be in that tradition of great one-volume biographies that includes Benjamin P. Thomas's Abraham Lincoln: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952) and Reinhard H. Luthin's The Real Abraham Lincoln (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Pren- tice Hall, 1960). The difference is that Thomas and Luthin served their apprenticeships within the field of Lincolniana. Thomas wrote Lincoln's New Salem (Springfield, Illinois: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1934); Lincoln [Day-by-Day], 1847-1853 (Springfield: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1936); and Portrait for Posterity: Lincoln and His Biographers (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1947) before tackling his one-volume synthesis, probably the favorite to date among Lincoln aficionados forced to recom- mend or assign a one-volume biography. Luthin's solid book has always been underrated because it is stodgily written and repetitious (a student of Luthin's told me he had a thick German accent; that linguistic heritage may well account for his prose style). The books that Luthin wrote before The Real Abraham Lincoln were substantial contributions which have stood the test of time because they were based on prodigious research. Lincoln and the Patronage (New York: Columbia University Press, 1943) and The First Lincoln Campaign (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1944), written with co-author Harry J. Carman, are still stan- dard works in the field which merit study. Oates is a newcomer to the Lincoln field but not, certainly, to history and biography. He wrote a much acclaimed biogra- phy of John Brown entitled To Purge This Land with Blood, a history of the Nat Turner revolt called The Fires of Jubilee, and six other books. By my tone to this point I have been trying to suggest the cool — not to say, hostile — attitude with which I approached this book. Let's face it, all things being equal, one would have preferred to see a long-time toiler in the Lincoln field write the update of Thomas and Luthin that so many people knew was needed. One would have liked to see a Lincoln "regular" reap the rewards of Harper and Row's diligent salesmanship. And one would have thought that experience in the field would have helped the quality of the book. Credit must be given where credit is due, however. Stephen Oates has given us a lively, sensitive, and sensible biography of Lincoln which takes into account the changes in the field which have made Thomas and Luthin seem less than perfect. Moreover, he has attempted that most difficult of tasks, a true biography, a book which seeks to tell us what the man was like not just what roll call analysis suggests his interpretation of constituent will was, not just what his Presidential policies were, and not just the way his intellect described the world. Oates tries to tell us what made Lincoln angry, what de- pressed him, and what embarrassed him — when he was humble and when he threw his weight around. This is no easy task when an author deals with a man who had no intimate friends after 1842 (when he and Joshua Speed let their friendship, in Lincoln's own words, "die by degrees"). This is no easy task in the case of a man of whom his cam- paign manager and circuit-riding friend, David Davis, could say, "He was the most reticent and secretive man I ever saw or expect to see." This is no easy task in the case of a man whose law partner claimed special knowledge of the man and yet also said that he was the most "shut-mouthed" man who ever lived. "He always told only enough of his plans and purposes to induce the belief that he had communicated all," said Leonard Swett of Lincoln, "yet he reserved enough to have communicated nothing." Said Ward Hill Lamon, "He made simplicity and candor a mask of deep feelings carefully con- cealed, and subtle plans studiously veiled." Given such formidable obstacles, Oates does well to put as much flesh on Lincoln as he does. He is a sensitive and subtle reader of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953). Take the case of Lincoln's parents and childhood. In the course of saying what he did in the early promotion of the book — that Lincoln forgot his roots as fast as he could — Oates came across as a debunker. Indeed, an editorial he wrote for the New York Times on Lincoln's birthday this year, denied Lincoln access to "The Academy of Saints" (see The New York Times, February 12, 1977, section C, page 21). This is the part of his publishers' promotional scheme which, in my opinion, went awry. A substantial number of the steady pur- chasers of Lincoln books are Lincolnp/u7es who are hostile to debunking. This market does not want to buy a book to hear its hero vilified and abused. In point of fact, Oates is not a debunker at all. What he says about Lincoln's escape from his frontier past to professional LINCOLN LORE dignity has been needing to be said for some time. In recon- structing the reputation of Thomas Lincoln, for example, from the accusations that he was a shiftless n'er-do-well, Lin- coln scholars have done an important piece of work. This Foundation itself has played a big role in this particular re- vision of the historical record. Nevertheless, some have car- ried the revision too far and ignored Abraham Lincoln's ob- vious — and somewhat painful — expressions of disdain for his rural past. He, not the historians who were wrong about Thomas Lincoln, called his education in Kentucky and Indiana "defective." He, not the historians, termed the schools in Indiana, "schools so-called." He, not the his- torians, made it clear that he learned respectable grammar only after he had left his father's roof. Lincoln, and not the historians, limited Thomas Lincoln's literary achievements to the feat of learning to sign his own name "bunglingly." To stress the radical separation from his youthful past — to stress the obvious estrangement from his father — is only fit- ting and proper. It is not debunking iconoclasm, for it is not new, really. Gates maintains this as a theme of at least the first half of his book and treats the scene well when the mature Lincoln is confronted by his rural past at the Republican state convention in Decatur, which gave him Illinois's nomination for the Presidency in 1860: . . . more highjinks followed. Lincoln's cousin John Hanks and another fellow marched down the aisle carrying a banner tied between two rotted fence rails. "Abraham Lin- coln, the Rail Candidate for President," the banner read. "Two rails from a Lot of 3,000 Made in 1830byThos. Hanks and Abe Lincoln — Whose Father was the First Pioneer of Macon County." At that the delegates broke into a thun- derous demonstration, stomping and shoving so hard that part of the roof awning collapsed on top of them. When the crowd called for a speech, Lincoln pointed at the banner and said, "I suppose I am expected to reply to that." As much as he detested "Abe" and disliked hickish symbols, he let it all go, remarking that he didn't know whether he'd split those two particular rails or not, but he'd mauled better ones since becoming a man. Again the delegates shouted and whooped and flung their hats in the air. And so the "rail splitter" image was born, the symbol of Lincoln as humble "Abe" of the common people, a homespun hero brimming with prairie wit and folk wisdom — a symbol Lincoln's backers hoped would give him an electric popular appeal. A near sub-theme of the book concerns Lincoln's bouts with the "hypo." We know these as fits of depression or periods of melancholia, but Lincoln, after his friend and physician Dr. Anson Henry, called it hypochondriaism. His worst period is well known, after the "fatal first of January," 1841, when he broke off his engagement to Mary Todd and when Joshua Speed prepared to return to Kentucky. But, if we are to believe Oates, they reoccurred, though with less severe symptoms, with some frequency: Even as he grew older, Lincoln continued to suffer from the hypo, from spells of melancholy that troubled his friends and associates. In the midst of conversation, they observed, he would slip away into one of his moody intro- spections, lost in himself again as he stared absently out the unwashed windows of his office, brooding over untold thoughts and secret storms, until he who viewed each human life as a pawn in the hands of an unknowable God, as a doomed and fleeting moment in a rushing ocean of time, would start muttering the lines of "Mortality." As his colleagues looked on in worried astonishment, his face would become so despondent, his eyes so full of anguish, that it would hurt to look at him. But abruptly, "like one awakened from sleep," Lincoln would join his visitors again — his mood swings were start- ling — and joke and quip with them until laughter lit up his cloudy face. For humor was his opiate — a device "to whistle down sadness," as a friend said. Mary Lincoln, of course, had to deal with the problem too. Then there were his mood swings, his habit of withdrawing into himself, of being glum and remote when she wanted to talk. She did not understand his hypo any more than his friends did and was irritated by his spells of abstraction. They might come on at the dinner table, where he would stare off into space, impervious to conversation and Mary's glances. Or he would go off and sit in his rocking chair, im- mersed in himself as he mulled over some law case or the state of the Union, mulled over the meaning of life and the inevitability of death, his death and that of his wife and children, until he would shake such thoughts away and pull himself back to his house, this room, his plavine sons, his anxious wife. Once a spell even came over him while he pulled one of his boys in a w agon. Lost in thought, he tugged the wagon over an uneven plank sidewalk and the child fell off. But Lincoln was oblivious to the fallen boy and went on with his head bent forward, hauling the empty wagon around the neighborhood. He had an attack when he lost the United States Senate seat to Lyman Trumbull in February, 1855, during the Sumter crisis, upon the resignations of Southern-born officers like Robert E. Lee and JohnBankheadMagruderin 1861, after the disastrous defeat at First Bull Run, and after the slaughter of Fredericksburg in December of 1862. The crush of work and and the pace of nearly day-to-day crises helped Lincoln avoid prolonged spells of depression during the Civil War because he usually got out of them by throwing himself into his work, and there was more work to do than ever before in his life. Oates portrays Lincoln — especially as President — as more prone to anger than any sentimentalized portrait of him ever does. Virginia's John Bankhead Magruder came to see Lin- coln and "stood right here is his office and 'repeated over and over again' his 'protestations of loyalty,' only to resign his commission and head for the South. It gave Lincoln the hypo. He referred to Lee, Magruder, and all like them as traitors." When Baltimore leaders objected that Union soldiers could not "pollute" Maryland's soil, Lincoln exclaimed, "Our men are not moles and can't dig under the earth; they are not birds, and can't fly through the air. There is no way but to march across, and that they must do." He "bristled," says Oates, when they urged him to make peace with the South: You express great horror of bloodshed, and yet would not lay a straw in the way of those who are organizing in Vir- ginia and elsewhere to capture this city. The rebels attack Fort Sumter, and your citizens attack troops sent to the de- fense of the Government, and the lives and property in Washington, and yet you would have me break my oath and surrender the Government without a blow. There is no Washington in that — no Jackson in that — no manhood nor honor in that. Lincoln "became furious" when he learned that Mary had overspent a Congressional allowance to redecorate the White House: "It can never have my approval. I'll pay it out of my pocket first — it would stink in the nostrils of the American people to have it said the President of the United States had approved a bill over-running the appropriation of $20,000 for flub dubs for this damned old house, when the soldiers cannot have blankets." Though he generally gave military expertise the benefit of the doubt and deferred to the judgments of the generals even when he thought them mistaken, the generals could make him very angry when Lincoln was sure he was right. After General Meade failed to pursue Lee's retreat from Gettysburg, Lincoln was apoplectic. He read Meade's mes- sage boasting of driving the invador from Northern soil. "Drive the invader from our soil," Lincoln exclaimed. "My God! Is that all?" He told his son Robert, "If I had gone up there, I could have whipped them myself." He thought that "there is bad faith somewhere" in failing to annihilate Lee's "traitor army." Halleck informed the victorious general of the President's "great dissatiscation." Lincoln tried to forget feuds, saying, "A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels." And he disliked violence, as Oates tells us: As Lincoln told an Indiana senator, the war was the supreme irony of his life: that he who sickened at the sight of blood, who abhorred stridency and physical violence, should be cast in the middle of a great civil war, a tornado of blood and wreckage with consequences beyond prediction for those swept in its winds. But anyone capable of fighting the Civil War with the ten- LINCOLN LORE acity and clear-sightedness of Lincoln (he carried a copy of Sherman's famous orders which inaugurated the March to the Sea and the era of Total War in his pocket the night of the assassination) had to have something of Jackson in him, a stern streak. The biography is very properly called "With Malice Toward None," but when Lincoln asked the serenading band to play "Dixie" the night of April 10, 1865, he did so, he said, because "it is our lawful prize." When the Cabinet discussed punishing Confederates, Oates says, "Lin- coln made it clear that he wanted 'no bloody work,' no war trials, hangings and firing squads — not even for rebel leaders. But he would like to 'frighten them out of the country, ' he said, 'open the gates, let down the bars, scare them off.' He waved his hands as though he were shooing chickens." On that day, he agreed in principle with Stanton's plans for military reconstruction. Lincoln wielded power when it was necessary, and threatened to use it when that seemed necessary too. When he began to angle for the Presidency seriously in 1860, Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull forgot his debt to Lincoln for throwing him his votes in the 1854 contest for the United States Senate seat and was supporting Supreme Court Judge John McLean, a perpetual contender and now something of an old fossil. Lincoln had been to the Cooper Institute now and knew that he was well enough known to be a serious contender. He began to work hard on support outside the state. One thing he did not need was a disunited Illinois dele- gation, and "he bluntly advised Trumbull to 'write no letters which can possibly be distorted into opposition, or quasi opposition to me,' because that would cost Trumbull the sup- port of Lincoln's own 'peculiar friends.' Up for re-election as senator that year, Trumbull took the hint and stopped pro- moting Judge McLean. But frankly he didn't think Lincoln could defeat Seward." Oates stresses that in the 1850's Lincoln could be counted on to supply precise statements of the moral position of most Republicans-and with eloquence. Indeed, it was his oratory and writing ability which made him a national political success. During the Civil War this ability served to keep up his relations with the liberal wing of the Republican party. Nowhere is the freshness of Oates's approach more easily discerned than in his stress on Lincoln's close working rela- tionship with Massachusetts's liberal Senator Charles Sumner during the Civil War. Their first contacts came na- turally as a result of (1) Sumner's being Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and(2)thefact that Lin- coln had a headstrong and domineering Secretary of State, William H. Seward. Lincoln balanced Seward's belligerence towards Great Britain against Sumner's impulse to pacify and mollify. "You must watch him and overrule him," Sumner warned. In exchange for Sumner's advice on foreign policy, Sumner got access to the President. Their relation- ship, like most of Lincoln's relationships, had its ups and downs. When Lincoln condemned Secretary of War Simon Cameron for issuing an unauthorized report suggesting emancipating and arming Negroes, Oates says, abolitionists and Republican liberals openly condemned Lincoln's stand against federal emancipation and exerted all their powers of persuasion to change his mind. Chief among them was Charles Sumner, who visited Lincoln regularly and beseeched him to stop protecting the very in- stitution that had caused the rebellion. One day, as Lincoln sat in the Senate galleries, Sumner gave an impassioned eulogy to Edward Baker . . . Gesticulating dramatically, Sumner described how Baker had died at Ball's Bluff and then — looking straight at Lincoln now — Sumner cried that slavery was "the murderer of our dead Senator [Baker]." A correspondent said that Lincoln started violent- ly at Sumner's remark, quite as though he had been stabbed. Willing to compromise, Sumner supported Lincoln's plan for gradual and compensated emancipation in Delaware. When it stalled, Lincoln told Sumner that "the only difference be- tween you and me on this subject is a difference of a month or six weeks in time." "Mr. President," Sumner replied, "if that is the only difference between us, I will not say another word to you about it till the longest time you name has passed by." Despite occasional policy differences, their personal asso- ciation — and Sumner's friendship with Mary Lincoln — sur- vived right up to the time of Lincoln's death (and after, in the case of Mary). The very fact that Oates calls Lincoln's critics on the left "liberal Republicans" indicates his principal revision of the war years — gone is the artifical story of tremendous conflict and tension between Lincoln and members of his own party. Lincoln was recognized by Republicans as a liberal Re- publican, sound on slavery, for his entire career. A practitioner of biography on a large scale, Oates is also a master of the thumbnail biographical sketch. The book is dotted with delightful little portraits of men who played im- portant parts in Lincoln's life. Again, Charles Sumner pro- vides a nice example, when he first appears on the scene as an advisor to Lincoln on policy toward England: An arch, sophisticated bachelor with B.A. and law degrees from Harvard, Sumner even looked English, with his tailored coats, checkered trousers, and English gaiters. He was so conscious of manners, he admitted, "that he never allowed himself, even in the privacy of his own chamber, to fall into a position which he would not take in his chair in the Senate. 'Habit,' he said, 'is everything.'" A humorless, high-minded man, he hated slavery and spoke out with great courage against racial injustice to black people. Back in 1856, he'd almost been beaten to death by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina and had gone off to Europe to convalesce. He had rich brown hair streaked with gray, a massive forehead, blue eyes, and a rather sad smile. Mary was terribly impressed with him. And so was Lincoln. His adversary in foreign policy circles, William Seward, also gets a nice portrait: . . . now that Seward had given up trying to run the admin- istration, Lincoln liked him as a man and thoroughly en- joyed his company. Sixty years old and slightly stooped, Seward resembled a jocular bird chewing on a Havana cigar. His nose was hooked in a beak, his ears stuck out, his voice was husky, his eyebrows thick and grizzly, and his silver hair always disheveled. He was a celebrated raconteur, loved to pun and banter, often braying so hard at his own wit that it left him hoarse. A chain talker, he en- tertained guests at his house on Lafayette Square with "A regular Niagara flood" of chatter, gossip, and uninhibited profanity. And how he could entertain, throwing lavish dinner parties that lasted four hours and went through eleven courses, complete with imported wines and brandy. Yet he was a man of many moods — now an effusive story- teller, now a cynic, now a show-off, now a tough and serious administrator. In all, he was a man of immeasurable self- esteem, so certain of his own greatness that he tipped his hat to any stranger who appeared to recognize him. Befitting the stature of Sumner and Seward and their im- portance in the Lincoln story, these sketches are longer than most, but they are typical of the attention to character, habit, and appearance in Oates's descriptions of Lincoln's acquain- tances. As these sketches may indicate, Professor Oates writes in a very lively style. Those who fear from Oates's academic credentials that this will be a scholarly tome with Teutonic footnotes are in for a very pleasant surprise. This professor's style happens to be conversational. He uses contractions (he'd, didn't, hadn't, and so forth) regularly. He uses sentence fragments regularly — for example: "Now to get these operations in motion before autumn set in" (page 257). He uses marks of elision to indicate pauses: "McClellan was in bed . . .faking illness, fumed some Republicans, so he wouldn't have to fight" (page 283). He concludes sections with sen- tences suggestive of ominous and foreboding events. When Lincoln visited the Confederate capital after its fall and less than a week before his assassination, he returned to Wash- ington with a happy party aboard the steamer River Queen: Mary rejoined Lincoln at City Point with a "choice little party" that included Sumner and Lizzie Keckley. They'd come down a few days ago and toured Richmond them- selves; and the sight of the rebel capital and transformed LINCOLN LORE Sumner "into a lad of sixteen." On the journey back to Washington, they had a long discussion about Shakes- peare, and Lincoln entertained the group by reading the scene in Macbeth where Duncan is assassinated. With Malice Toward None is a book in the Thomas and Luthin tradition, and, of course, Oates has the advantage of being able to use his predecessors' work. His discussion of the executive routine at the White House follows Thomas's chapter on that subject very closely, as well it might, since that is the finest chapter in the last couple hundred pages of Abraham Lincoln: A Biography. Hereis a sample of how close the two books can be, this time on Lincoln's last cabinet meeting: the Southern people. Lincoln spoke kindly of Lee and other officers and especially of the enlisted men in the Con- federate army who had fought bravely in a cause they held dear. Stanton presented a plan of reconstruction which would have wiped out old state boundaries, but Lincoln did not favor it. He was glad that Congress was not in session, for he hoped to have friendly relations re-established before it met. "There are men in Congress," he observed," . . . who possess feelings of hate and vindicti veness in which I do not sympathize and can not participate." He hoped there would be no persecutions, "no bloody work"; enough blood had been shed. No one need expect him to take part in vengeful dealings, even toward the worst of the secessionists. "Frighten them out of the country," he said, "open the gates, let down the bars, scare them off' — he waved his great hands a though shooing sheep out of a lot. [Oates] On other reconstruction matters, they deferred the question of Negro suffrage, knowing that it would require extended debate. As for punishing the rebels, Lincoln made it clear that he wanted "no bloody work," no war trials, hangings and firing squads — not even for rebel leaders. But he would like to "frighten them out of the country," he said, "open the gates, let down the bars, scare them off." He waved his hands as though he were shooing chickens. At other times, especially when dealing with the war years, Thomas seems a bit overwhelmed by the crush of events and loses sight of Lincoln as a man. When treating the draft riots of 1863, for example, Thomas's paragraphs get choppy (six on the one page describing the draft law and its social results). He describes Lincoln's dealings with New York's Governor Seymour at the time of the riots this way: Greeley and other Republican editors reviled Seymour as a Copperhead, but Lincoln treated his opposition as born of honest conviction. He would welcome an opinion from the Supreme Court, he replied to the Governor, but he could not wait for it. He must have soldiers, for the enemy was driving every able-bodied man into the ranks "very much as a butcher drives bullocks into a slaughter-pen." He would give New York all possible credits for enlistments, but the draft must go on. Lincoln was not responsible for the deficiencies of the draft law; he was obliged to administer it as Congress had framed it. But much of his time had to be spent in explan- ation and adjustment of various governors' complaints. "My purpose," he wrote to Seymour, "is to be . . . just and constitutional; and yet practical, in performing the impor- tant duty, with which I am charged, of maintaining the unity, and free principles of our common country." About a month later the draft was quietly resumed in New York City. So ends this section in Thomas's book. It seems brittle and stiff and legalistic in tone, when compared to Oates's section on the same subject: What did Lincoln want, Seymour raged, New York City ablaze with riots? The city cut off from the outside world and "given over to a howling mob?" Of course Lincoln didn't want any more mob outbreaks — it was terrible, he said, for working people to maul and murder other working people as they had in New York City. But he told Seymour he would not suspend the draft, not when the enemy was forcing all available men into his ranks, "very much as a butcher drives bullocks into a slaughter pen," in hopes of attacking again and destroying all the Union had gained at Gettysburg . . . In mid September Lincoln prepared a two-fisted defense of the draft, arguing that it was not only Constitutional, but based on sound historical precendent as well. Did not the Founding Fathers resort to conscription in the Revolution and the War of 1812? Are we not now to use what our own Fathers employed? "Are we degenerate? Has the manhood of our race run out?" He was resolutely determined, he in- formed the Cabinet, to stand behind the draft — and to deal with officials who obstructed it as he'd dealt with Vallan- digham: he would banish them all to the Confederacy. Hay was amazed at how tough Lincoln was becoming. "The Tycoon is in fine whack," Hay said of the President. "He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once. I never knew with what tryannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now. The most important thing be decides & there is no cavil." "He will not be bullied — even by his friends." The pasage from Oates has not lost sight of the man who dealt with the draft problem and, for my money, he is more nearly the sort of man who could win the largest war in American history. In addition to being able to use Luthin's and Thomas's works, Oates benefits from much research conducted since their time. His book is notably better for being able to use Justin and Linda Levitt Turner's Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972) and David Donald's biography of Charles Sumner, for example. It is not without its peculiar weaknesses. Lincoln's ideas are hard to find. Even though he was not a philospher or in any sense a systematic social thinker, still his world view merits some systematic exploration, analysis, and rendering. It is hard to understand from Oates's book where all the policies came from and how they all fit together at any moment. Ironically — given Oates's reputation as a debunker — another weakness is that the book is so pro-Lincoln that it sometimes takes Lincoln's view of his enemies uncritically. Oates gives Stephen Douglas very short shrift, and there is nothing like the appreciation of Lincoln's rival one can find in David Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher's, The Impending Crisis, which manages to admire both men by understanding both of them. It smacks of a twentieth-century academic's secular preju- dices to ignore that innermost of subjects, religion, in a book which seeks to reveal the inner man. There is a brief mention of religion early in book, and Oates never mentions it again. This defies the pattern of increasing evidence of religiosity which most scholars have found in Lincoln's life, and it defies the evidence of some of the witnesses on whom Oates commonly relies for other points in Lincoln's life, Mary Todd Lincoln and Noah Brooks, for example. Finally, of course, one can object that there is little that is new in the book — that is, little that stems from Oates's own research in original sources. Yet this can hardly be a weak- ness in a book which, despite the media hype for selling it, was surely not meant to come up with anything new on its own. It was meant merely to incorporate all the changes that have taken place in the twenty-five years since Thomas's book ap- peared. Oates even adopts Thomas's footnote format, which is to have no footnotes but to bunch the references by section, suggesting where all the directly quoted material appears. Nevertheless, one can achieve something "new" by ac- cumulation of details garnered from others' work. This is what makes a successful and original synthesis. The presen- tation of a tough and Jacksonian Lincoln in a book which nevertheless admires Lincoln is rather original, I think, and satisfies a demand in the field. It has long been difficult to fi- gure out how a tender-hearted Lincoln ever won that war; Oates explains it and does so without diminishing the size of Lincoln's heart. The book does not achieve the pinnacle of suc- cess in synthesis that David Potter and Don Fehrenbacher do in another book published by Harper and Row, The Impen- ding Crisis, but that book is a masterpiece. If work in the Lin- coln field never dipped below Oates's high standard, the field would be a dazzling one indeed. Lincoln students should greet Stephen Oates, who is no de- bunker and who is a capable biographer, with open arms and with no malice at all. He has served us well. Lincoln Lore June, 1980 Bulletin of the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum. Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. Mary Jane Hubler, Editorial Assistant. Published each month by the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. Number 1708 BLAIR The elder statesman is a familiar fixture on the Washington political scene today. In recent years, the names of Clark Clifford and Averell Harriman have often appeared in the headlines at times of national crisis. Abraham Lincoln's administration was one long crisis, and Francis Preston Blair was the Civil War's elder statesman. A relic of the Presidency of Andrew Jackson, Blair was influential because of his proximity to Washington, his blurred partisanship, his many political connections, and his age and experience. At last he has a modern biographer, Elbert B. Smith, who gives consid- erable stress to the Civil War years in Francis Preston Blair (New York: The Free Press, 1980). Blair was seventy years old when the Civil War began. An architect of Jacksonian Democ- racy in his prime, he bitterly opposed the expansion of slavery and became an important founder of the Republican party when he was well into his sixties. His family and political relations formed a powerful network throughout the Union, especially in the Border States of Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky. One of his sons, Montgomery Blair, was Lin- coln's Postmaster General. Francis Preston Blair, Jr., "Frank," flitted from politics to the battlefront and had sensational impact almost everywhere he went. Even Francis P. Blair's political enemies liked him personally. His family adored him and carried his political ideas everywhere they went Like most elder statesmen, he play- ed his largest role in foreign policy, initiating the abortive Hampton Roads Peace Confer- ence. Confederates who would trust no other Republican trusted Blair. This is a competent and fair-minded biography of a man whose political ideas have not been popular in recent years. Like all elder statesmen, Blair's age made him in some respects a political troglodyte. A kindly slaveholder himself, Blair and his politically impor- tant family were ardent coloni- zationists long after the idea was a sociological, political, and economic absurdity. The Fronds Preston BLAIR ELBERT B. SMITH This is the first modern and complete life of F. P. Blair — member of Andrew Jackson's "Kitchen Cab- inet," founder and editor of the Washington Globe, a founder of the Republican Party, advisor and confidant to five VS. Presidents, patriarch of one of Maryland's biggest political dynasties, simper of America, and one of the country's greatest and shrewdest "behind the scenes" powers. FIGURE 1. Dust jacket of the new Blair biography triumph of their conservative — even reactionary — constitu- tional ideas after Lincoln's death has not endeared the Blairs to modern historians. Eight years ago, when I asked a college professor what was the point of his lecture on Reconstruction in an American history survey course, he replied humorously, "To hell with Montgomery Blair." Smith's biography, which is particularly strong on the Blair family's inner workings, is a valuable corrective to this hostility absorbed by so many historians in recent years. It is most illuminating to discover how personally likable the old man was. Even the unbudging Charles Sumner never took personal exception to attacks on his political ideas by members of the Blair clan. Nevertheless, the book's weaknesses must be the real focus of this review. Despite com- petent research and readable prose, Francis Preston Blair is lacking in at least one impor- tant respect. Professor Smith, for all his ability to capture Blair the man, never quite delineates Blair the political thinker. To describe the polit- ical thought of many a politician / editor / wire-puller, would be a mistake. Oppor- tunism and ad hoc political apologetics too often destroy anything systematic about their political thinking. With Blair, however, it is a serious mistake not to do so. He played a larger role in making Jack- sonian political doctrine than Andrew Jackson himself did. When political problems arose, President Jackson always shouted, "Take it to Bla'ar." Despite his ability to land on his feet politically, despite his brave and clever moving with the times into the Republican party, and despite his steady personal loyalty to those he served, Blair's ideas had so ossified by the Civil War era that the most distinctive thing about him was his ideological quality. Even when his policies were up to date, the ideas under- lying them were strangely archaic. Blair was an ideologue, and his children inherited a pen- chant for grandiose ideas from him. It is virtually impossible, incidentally, to write about Francis Preston Blair. One From the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum LINCOLN LORE h: i FIGURE 2. French troops in Mexico worried Blair but did not faze Lincoln must always write about the Blairs. Smith does this without really admitting that he does, probably because the only other existing work on the subject, William Ernest Smith's The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics, did exactly the same thing in 1933. One is immediately attracted to Elbert B. Smith's Francis Preston Blair because it promises to sort one member of that clan out, but, in fact, the modern Smith cannot do it either. When one finishes the new book, one still thinks of the Blairs' political ideas, not Montgomery's, not Frank's, and not the patriarch's particular ideas. These ideas were all important, and they are all too sketch- ily delineated in Professor Smith's book. What Smith has failed to describe is the tendency among the Blairs to think always in systematic, gigantic, almost cosmic geopolitical terms. Among American politicians this trait has often been lacking, and it is a serious error for a biographer of such a rare thinker to ignore it. To end the Civil War in 1865, Blair concocted a scheme to fight France in Mexico. This was the idea behind the Hamp- ton Roads Peace Conference, and it is common knowledge. There are other clues in Smith's book that the Blairs always painted their political ideas on a grand canvas. The Blairs were not deeply troubled by the policy of emancipation. As Francis P. Blair explained to a Maryland friend as early as April 9, 1862: You seem dissatisfied over abolition. All practical men are now sensible that slav- ery so affects the people whether it ought to do so or not as to make it a terrible institution to our race. They see that it imbues a broth- er's hand in a brother's blood, and invites foreign despots to plant monarchies on our continent. With this result before us, the only enquiry should be how to get rid of an institution which produces such miseries. Never content with the practical, parochial, and powerful argument that slav- ery was bad for the white race, Blair somehow managed to conjure up the bogey of monar- chy. True, French bayonets prop- ped Maximilian up on the Mexican throne, but most Americans took little interest in Latin America. President Lincoln was never much inter- ested in Mexican schemes. As a former Whig, he had long detested American imperial designs on her southern neigh- bor. A politician of moral vision, Lincoln was also an eminently practical man, and he was content to fight one war at a time. Blair, on the other hand, was obsessed with the monarchical threat on Amer- ica's southern flank. Democrat- ic politicians, even those with free-soil proclivities like Blair's, had a weakness for Latin American ventures. Somehow, any threat to American national solidarity caused Blair to see monarchy in the wings. Months before the firing on Fort Sumter, the elder statesman told Lincoln that the North was "as much bound to resist the South Carolina Movement, as that of planting a monarchy in our midst by a European potentate." The days of Jackson seemed not far removed to Blair, who still called the secessionists of 1860-1861 "nullifiers." His policy of resisting secession was up-to-date, all right, but the assumptions be- hind it were decades old. Earlier still, just after Lincoln's election in November, 1860, Blair had given him a piece of bad advice, telling him to mention colonization in his letter ac- cepting the Republican nomination. This would have the practical effect of warding off "the attacks, made upon us about negro equality." Blair did not leave the subject on that banal, but practical plane, however. He also launched into an elaborate analogy between the Chiriqui Improvement Compa- ny, an outfit poised to colonize blacks in Latin America, and the old East India Company, which had made England's empire in India possible. The same anarchy which had invited English intervention in India through a private corporation prevailed "among the little confederacies . . . From the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum LINCOLN LORE South of the Free States of this continent." Chiriqui, Blair said, "may be made the pivot on which to rest our lever to sway Central America and secure . . . the control . . . neces- sary for the preservation of our Republican Institutions." He was like an ancient and battered weather vane rusted into pointing fixedly in the same direction all the time. Sometimes the winds shifted so that he pointed the way truly, but the key factor was his fixity, not his wisdom. Inside Blair's odd-shaped and proverbially ugly head, there swam a strange array of sophisticated but old-fashioned ideas. The electoral defeat of Breckinridge, Bell, and Douglas could lead him to think, not of possible civil war or the deeper problem of slavery and racism which underlay that threat, but of Mexico and monarchy. He could leap from politic considerations of the racial views of the American electorate to geopolitical blather about analogies to the British empire. And all this was mixed with occasional acute judgments and a charming self-deprecation. In a letter written before Lincoln's election, Blair told his son Frank that Lincoln had "genius [and] . . . political knowledge" and stressed the importance of his honesty in bringing support. Blair described himself as "a sort of relic which Genl Jackson wielded against the very Nullification" which again threatened the Union. Smith leaves much of this out, and, in doing so, he nearly leaves Blair out of his biography of Blair. It is most unfor- tunate that Smith chose to write a "life and times" of Blair, for his life was long and his times comprehended most of American political history from the Era of Good Feelings to the end of Reconstruction. Smith spends entirely too much time in describing general political events, sometimes well and sometimes poorly, and far too little time in analyzing Blair's political vision. One cannot, from all evidence, dismiss as claptrap and window dressing the grand geopolitical context of Blair's often crudely practical ideas. Though attempting to escape the wrath of Northern racism may appear to be the only operative content in Blair's colonization obsession, in fact the analogies to England and the muttering about monarchy seem really to be the heart and kernel of his thought. In the letter suggesting that Lincoln talk of colonization as a way to ward off accusations that Republicans advocated racial equality, Blair explained the connection between monarchy and slavery. The Southern "oligarchy," he thought, had lost its American love of freedom and saw the "degraded lower orders of whites" as fit only to be slaves or soldiers. South- erners would rather fight than work, and such pre-bourgeois attitudes (Blair did not use that term) would lead to monarchy. From this system of ideas, at least in part, came the Blairs' famed obstinate resistance to secession and compromise! Francis P. Blair's fevered vision of American politics was always informed by his acquaintance with world history. From the men he regarded as the great luminaries of American history, Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson, Blair claimed to have learned the inevitability of a final solution to America's race problem. "The period has come," he told Lincoln after his election, "which Mr. Jefferson saw would arrive, rendering the deportation or extermination of the African Race from among us, inevitable." He pointed to the "Hostilities of irreconcileable Castes" which "marked the annals of Spain during 800 years, springing from the abhorrent mixture of the Moors with Spaniards, in the same peninsula." Lincoln called him "Father Blair," and one can imagine the mixture of awe and incredulity with which he must have regarded such cosmic musings. The President's own political vision included little of this grand world- historical baggage. Yet at the moment of his greatest political influence on the Lincoln administration, the time of the Hampton Roads Peace Conference, Blair insisted to Lincoln: "You see that I make the great point of this matter that the War is no longer made for slavery but monarchy." The old man blurted his fears that Jefferson Davis would league with a foreign monarchy to save Southern independence. He babbled that Napoleon had wanted a black army from Santo Domingo to invade the American South, stir up insurrection, and bring about French conquest of the United States. At Hampton Roads, by contrast, Lincoln scoffed that he left history lessons to Seward. The President From the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum FIGURE 3. Francis Preston Blair, Jr. was interested in Southern peace terms — even, as G.S. Boritt has suggested, in how much coin it would take essentially to bribe the South into reunion. Jefferson Davis was a political realist too. He told Blair that France did not want a Mexican empire as much as she wanted a base from which to build up her feeble navy. Davis, at war with an industrially superior nation, knew the lure of coal, iron, and timber. Blair did not get the point. He still feared that Davis would become France's ally in subjecting the United States to monarchy. The elder statesman told Lincoln, far too busy even to read long letters from his generals, to observe the parallels with modern times in Carlyle's Life of Frederick the Great. An old-fashioned idea lay at the heart of Francis P. Blair's thought and that of his influential children. Jacksonian ideologues always saw sharp class conflicts in America. They thought government aid to private corporations aided only rich men. They denied the possible general benefits of economic development. Such issues were irrelevant during the Civil War, but seeing Southern society in the same class terms was not. A perception of class conflict between Southern poor whites and a slaveholding oligarchy apparently lay at the bottom of Blair's fears of Southern willingness to invite monarchies to save their movement for independence. This error in perception of Southern society had serious political consequences. Montgomery Blair inherited from his father a penchant for seeing class conflict, whether it was there or not. Montgomery always insisted that secession was a minority movement and that "Military Government" in the Confederacy held the essentially loyal Southern masses at bay. This was carrying the common Northern belief in the existence of a slave oligarchy to an extreme, but in 1861 more people than the Blairs believed it. Even President Lincoln may have thought that way in 1861. He at least insisted that there was no majority for secession in any Southern state except, perhaps, South Carolina. Ever the practical observer, Lincoln came to see that this could not be so. After two and one-half years of war, Lincoln admitted that it would be difficult to find even ten percent of the population in any Southern state loyal to the Union. Montgomery Blair never changed his mind. The rigid Blair class analysis ground to its inexorable conclusions. The point LINCOLN LORE A SELF-APPOINTED ENVOY. From the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum FIGURE 4. This cartoon from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 21, 1865, depicted Blair as a granny, trying to bring the Confederacy to the bargaining table with sugarplums and barley water. General Ulysses S. Grant points to cannonballs as the more appropriate way of convincing the Confederates to rejoin the Union. of the Postmaster General's famous speech at Rockville, Maryland, late in 1863, was that there existed a loyal majority in the South against which the North must never be at war. It brought him the undying hatred of all the Radical Republicans (except friendly Charles Sumner). There is little wonder the Blairs opposed Reconstruction. They had never seen much disloyalty in need of restructuring into loyalty. It is almost impossible to write a decent biography of a man the biographer hates. The spirit rebels so at spending great amounts of time with an unlikable person that it can result only in unbalanced fulmination against the poor subject of the biography. The problem with Elbert B. Smith's Francis Preston Blair is not its mild bias in favor of its subject. This is almost necessary in order to attract a biographer to work, and it is rendered harmless by the common knowledge that most biographers suffer from this fault. Abraham Lincoln himself scorned biography because of its predictable lionization of its subject, no matter what the subject's faults. The problem with this book is more serious. Smith fails essentially to capture Francis Preston Blair's nature. The ideologue surfaces only occasionally, most notably in Smith's treatment of Frank Blair's speech "The Destiny of the Races of this Continent," delivered in Boston in 1859. There the great Blair political universe is laid out in an astonishing array of references to Dr. Livingstone on African hybrids and to the role of Moors in Spanish history. The speech, as Blair's daughter observed, dazzled "not only the politicians — but the Literati — & State street gentility." Smith's discussion of it dazzles the modern reader too and should make him wonder where all these ideas came from and whither they were going in the Civil War. This rare and brief glimpse of the Blair world view is but a dazzling moment in what is otherwise a competent, but sometimes sketchy, chronicle of Blair's role in many events of American history described at too great length. The inner springs of this fascinating elder statesman's thought and actions are too often left unexplained. And, as Smith's book clearly proves, Blair's thought and action were too important to too many people — from Andrew Jackson to Abraham Lincoln, from Thomas Hart Benton to Charles Sumner — to be left in such a state.